I find that it is much more noticeable when my mind wanders nowadays. It used to be that I would escape into daydream regularly and still be able to follow a conversation or a lecture that was taking place at the same time, but now I find that if my attention wanders it wanders away from the present completely and I suddenly snap back to reality like a television character experiencing some poorly planned exposition.

I can’t tell if this intensely narrowed focus is a factor of adulthood: that I’ve simply routed out clear enough mental pathways that my attention can either be “on” or “off” track with very little grey area, or whether it is just a temporary condition resulting from the amount of things on my mind at the moment that there is simply no spare attention to be had outside of whatever it is that I am focused on. Both scenarios seem equally likely and they’re not necessarily exclusive of one another. The bottom line, though, is that if I’m paying attention then I’m really paying attention and if my mind is wandering, it is really far afield.

The up side of this is that when I do focus on a task then I can usually stay focused. If I’m focused on listening to someone then I absorb a ton, but if I’m splitting my focus because I have to ask questions in order to “participate” then I’m often not thinking about anything but the question that I need to ask next. It’s that classic criticism of bad acting- that the actor is too busy thinking about their next line to listen to their scene partner: that is like me when I have to think of questions for participation points.

I know that I’ve bemoaned this participation business before, but it frustrates me when the grading structure of a class prevents me from fully investing in the subject matter being taught. Not everybody is a listener, it’s true, but just because someone isn’t speaking doesn’t mean they’re not participating.

Ok I’m going to get off this soapbox before I get my Irish up. Listening. It’s good for you.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on November 24, 2015.

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